According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nursing is among the Top Ten Occupations with the Largest Job Growth.
Registered Nursing (RN) requires a large base of knowledge used to assess, plan, and intervene to promote health, prevent disease, and help patients cope with illness. They are health educators and advocates for patients, families, and communities. When providing direct patient care, nurses observe, assess, and record symptoms, reactions, and progress, which provides the basis for care planning and intervention. They have a unique scope of practice and can practice independently, although they also collaborate with all members of the healthcare team to provide the care needed by each patient as an individual.
Nurses’ roles range from direct patient care and case management to establishing nursing practice standards, developing quality assurance procedures, directing complex nursing care systems, conducting clinical research, teaching in nursing programs, as well as practicing in many other invigorating settings.
RNs also develop and manage nursing care plans; instruct patients and their families in proper care; and help individuals and groups take steps to improve or maintain their health. While state laws govern the scope of nursing practice, it is usually the patient needs that determine their daily job activities.
Professional nursing responsibilities have changed considerably. Nurses today are highly respected and valued members of the healthcare team who bring their own body of knowledge to the process of health care. Nurses work in collaboration with physicians and members of other healthcare disciplines.
Once you are a professional nurse, you might choose to focus on a particular specialty. There are numerous specialty options — each of which has its own training/certification requirements and related professional network or organization. These include:
- Critical-Care Nurse
- Emergency Nurse
- Hospice/Palliative Care Nurse
- Labor & Delivery Staff Nurse
- Neonatal Nurse
- Nephrology Nurse
- Nurse Executive
- Oncology Nurse
- Orthopaedic Nurse
- Perioperative (O.R.) Nurse
- Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse
- School Nurse
- Staff Nurse
- Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
In addition, nursing has four Advanced Practice clinical professions, each of which requires a master’s degree and separate certification:
- Clinical Nurse Specialist
- Nurse Practitioner
For more information about the many career options in nursing, see:
- American Nurses Association
- American Association of Colleges of Nursing
- Nurses for a Healthier Tomorrow
To learn more about this career, watch the video profile of “Registered Nurses.”
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Most nurses work in healthcare facilities, although home health and public health nurses travel to their patients’ homes, schools, community centers, and other sites.
RNs may spend considerable time walking and standing. They also need to be able to cope well with stress, since nursing involves direct involvement with human suffering, emergencies, and other pressures.
The work schedule also can be challenging: Patients in hospitals and nursing homes require 24-hour care; consequently, nurses in these institutions may work nights, weekends, and holidays. RNs also may be on-call (available to work on short notice). Office, occupational health, and public health nurses are more likely to work regular business hours.